Get your Bolly on

This is my mum, Carol, Sue, Ros and a few 60-something ladies (6 out of 10) from Solihull trying out Bollwood Dancing this week.

They’re not aiming for Britain’s Got Talent. They’re not going to create a brand new niche of anglo-asian dance that becomes the British wiggly version of Tai Chi.  And they’re not doing this for our pleasure or judgment. After wiggling their hips and smiling til their cheeks hurt, a few of them will send this video to their sons and daughters and grandkids in Australia, Dubai, London and around the world.

They are part of a generation that was the first to enjoy at least three decades, the 60s, 70s and 80s, to the full, and these mums have not been shy in the last 20 years either. The “Baby Boomer” generation started being a silly name since the 80s. These ladies each went to decent schools, on to college, on to work as teachers, chemists and managers for over thirty years, to bring up children who would on occasion wrap dad’s Jaguar around a lamppost followed by the police. They party hard, are always keen to feed their minds, and have the ability and energy to get the very most out of what is often ludicrously called the “Twilight Years”.

The kids have left and are making their own mini-people. Pensions and Senior Citizen travel are here or looming, but these ladies are perfect examples of the We-Know-How-To-Enjoy-Ourselves generation. Sure, my bunch are part of the extended-kidulthood generation – pushing back growing up til we’re in our late 30s, (wrote a piece on it here) spending our complete pay-cheque halfway through the month, but for my mum and her friends, theirs is a mindset.

Mum is doing this. She’s painting again. She loves Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey like a fat kid loves cake. She’s joined a group called the University of the Third Age that goes on trips to the South of France and Italy to look at fancy old buildings. She turns up Jackie Wilson and howls at Radio 4. She’s not going to learn to cook, and will keep repackaging the caterer’s food into home bowls for parties. She’s not going to take up Mountain Walking again, but she will love the fells from the valley and head to the Apple Pie shop. She’s put the children’s lives in perspective by helping out at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

You don’t enjoy yourself waiting for things to come to you. You go out and get them, preferably without hurting others or yourself. You will not be looked after forever, and the people you share your life with may come and go, but you are the one to make yourself happy, and if you can share that, do.

You don’t have to get obliterated with pals every weekend. You don’t have to go around the world or change religion or get into fetish-gear. And getting your friends to join you for Bollwood class, and a good old giggle at least once a week – that’s not the ‘Twilight Years’ – it’s the ‘Highlight Years’. The kids are alright, but their mums, Grandmums and Supermums are absolutely fine.


Sri Lankings. Do all roads lead to Beijing?

Got back from a trip to Sri Lanka with a pal who works for a mining company in West Africa. We saw this captivating little nation through very different eyes, but found many of the same things, and learned a few too. Travelling helps that. I’m not one for listing travelling as a hobby- don’t travel for travel’s sake -it will not guarantee you will be more interesting. Travel to learn things that will better you and who you go with, to see stuff, that doesn’t have to go on Facebook. But I think I learned things on this trip, and now I’m blogging about them.

Sri Lanka Graphic Montage

Dubai takes perspective and stuffs it in the padding of a champagne-sipping Ukrainian model’s bra. But for every Terstosterphoney, overpaid sleazebollock gyrating with a 21 year old while the wife is at home, there’s  a talented, discerning individual here because of the economy. I’ve found a heap of them I care about very much. The greasy hormonoids across chandeliered neon rooms were things I expected, but I’m still getting sucked into the vortex.

My maid only comes once a week, I don’t have an SUV, I have to share my five residence swimming pools with other plebs, it’s at least 6 minutes walk to the nearest decent bit of beach, I don’t go on enough boats, and I’ve not had a decent rare fillet steak in at least a month. Poor me.

This time last year, the deflated mattress in Brooklyn next to the crusty cat’s bum wasn’t so bad, nor the collapsable ceiling, aggressive Haitians in the stairwell and immortal bed bugs (justified by staying with my soul mate, rocking up a Brooklyn-shaped talent-fest as I write this, Theresa Caffrey).

In New York, London, Birmingham or Edinburgh, millions commute at least an hour every day, to share eight hours in a collection of allocated spaces with people we don’t always like or understand. Most of us spend two thirds of each day justifying ourselves through emails, invoices, estimates, documents that will possibly help in compiling other documents, gchat, texting, Facebook when nobody’s looking…  Then we go back, to the train, bus or expressway for an hour home-bound, to the bar, or to the sofa, for American impact-drama and dinner with a label that tells us it’s healthy, authentic or 30% off.

In Dubai, lower that productivity by 30%, reduce commute-time by 70%, increase job security by 40% and sunshine by 80%, and lower inspiration and gigs by 60%. Add a smattering of food imported from opposite parts of the planet, accepted in-grained racism in all directions, and the most beautiful hotels you’ve ever seen, and you’ve got your gig.

Dubai doesn’t give a household-pet-monkey about infrastructure but they’ve got the basics to justify the Sensational-Destination bits. Africa, based on the experiences of my friend and my sister’s time there setting up this brilliant community-based travel company, doesn’t do infrastucture either – you know, roads, power, supplies, that kind of shit, but – Dubai has money, Africa has resources. So does Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, child in car

And Sri Lanka has work ethic – not work like sitting at a desk making spread sheets, work like making things, growing things, refining things, carving, welding, weaving, making things. And not just because people need to pay the bills, or feed mouths. Cycling 8 miles at 3am with a cart of bananas is to put the children through higher education, to get your son his engineering degree, to get him to work abroad where his skills will be needed by people who don’t study engineering anymore, like Europe, or Australia, or the Middle East, or the USA, where we study Marketing, English Literature, Media Studies, Philosophy, Religion or Fine Art. Sri Lankans are bright, proud, and things are moving fast.

And they have China, as Africa has too. The new expressways and tinted vans with Mandarin on make it quietly visible. Every Sri Lankan will say that “China is our big friend”. And when China makes a highway that reduces an 7 hour trip to 2 hours, what’s wrong with that? So why do I have a dodgy feeling about it?

Sri Lanka was flagged up and traded up by the Dutch 450 years ago, extorted and exported to buggery by the British, and now it’s China’s turn to buy up the Pineapples, Rubber, Tea, Cashews and more. They’re not visibly implanting a religion or dictator, or enforcing communism, and Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims live together with a distinct sense of Sri Lankan culture and pride, whether in their appearance, homes, or  auto-embellishments, you can’t tell what kind of god someone believes in unless you ask him. But China’s quiet helping hand will have a vested interest that will arise if trouble does. Which hopefully may not be soon.

Despite some very sludgy Tamil-shaped goings-on in recent years, Sri Lanka is the authentic, multi-cultural island of bright, earnest, hard-working friendliness that Singapore markets itself as, (instead of the weird plastic anti-soul themepark Singapore is).

I don’t know. I know ‘Neo Colonialism’ is a buzzword that describes something very real, and steadily raping African and Asian resources and nations. I know the gold in Dubai’s Gold Souk comes from a sinister chain of very unsavoury people, that starts with a young mother with a pick axe and baby on her back in an un-reinforced ditch in an unofficial mine in the Ivory Coast, who along with thousands of others has to run for her life when it rains.

I know that Sri Lankans sell to where the markets are, that they govern themselves, that post-Tsunami they’re hard-working, resilient people in a very beautiful country, and I hope they stay that way. It’s a lovely country in the middle of some big changes, but it has the resources, the people, and the strength to hold its own.